Sunday, February 21, 2010


Cubicles in offices seem to be like apartment buildings. Forgetting thin walls, people speak in high-volumes without thought that what is said inside these fragile, metal partitions navigate around the corners and into the main workplace. They forget their words get trapped inside the numerous other partitions that surround them – that these conversations are as clear outside the box as if someone is standing right next to you. Or do they forget? Perhaps they don’t care? Or is it lack of realization.

Last week, I felt particularly raked over by one, in my opinion, highly personal conversation. My work isn’t stimulating but it takes attention to detail. High-volume talkers can pull at my thoughts and take me away from my work. This conversation, so unbelievably loud, not only pulled but dragged me in, begging for attention. This person’s father had recently been diagnosed with a pulmonary disorder and he was talking to someone on the phone about his father’s care. The conversation wasn’t light-hearted - more heartbreaking because it could be life-threatening. And though my normal compassion would have reached out to this person, I couldn’t help wondering, “Why the hell are you having such a personal conversation in the middle of the workday in your cube? Why the hell can’t you take your cellphone and go into some distant part of the office so we don’t have to hear this?” Does his of lack of propriety note a lack of professionalism? Or is it appropriate to spill this information out into the work ether? As I wonder about this, I’m struck about the concept of containment and what we contain and what we share and with whom? What I’m asking of this person is to literally compartmentalize his conversations and not let the personal ones spill over the walls. …

Perhaps what bothers me is hearing the private lives of people I don’t know through means I didn’t choose. I hated apartment living because lives spilled over into my sphere - from cellphone calls passing by my door, loud lover quarrels to casual conversations shouted from one side of the building to the other. I didn’t want to know these conversations because I didn’t want to know their intimate life details. I wanted to hole up in my apartment, deal with my own thoughts, are not be encroached upon my others. Perhaps if I were raised in a large family where boundaries were trumped on a daily basis I wouldn’t have these strict thoughts. But I like my independence and independent thought and not getting swept up in what I find to be inappropriate displays of…. Oh, what shall I call it – humanness?

Perhaps it’s my over-saturated, caring nature that feels my boundaries are overstepped when I hear floating bits of personal information. There was a time in life where I dreamed of living in a cave, high above the world. My in-law apartment is sort-of cave like. I only have some conversation spill into my sphere from my landlords which is why I often turn the TV on.... Boxes, cubicles, even log cabins. Is it all for the sake of boundaries in our interconnected world?

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